Reader James Roder writes,
Most folks I know who have taken up turkey hunting started out thinking that hunting in the spring season would be a great way to go. After all, deer season has been over for months so spring turkey would be a great way to get out there and bring home a big bird. These mostly sane people made the mistake of actually going turkey hunting and, by unlucky happenstance, a gobbler answered their calls. And that’s when everything went off the rails.
The gobbler, doing its gobbling and strutting, always just out of range, tends to induce a madness that causes the new hunter to use up all their vacation time and still come home with no birds bagged. These failures must be due to the calls, so several dozen turkey calls are bought and none of them will sound quite right.
This insanity convinces the hunter that their old shotgun is a hunk of junk. The malady will drive them to crave a new, dedicated shotgun for turkey. Shopping for a new shotgun only intensifies the madness; our hunter is confronted with a confusing array of smoothbores and accessories. These purpose-built turkey guns have enticing traits such as scope mounts, improved triggers, a raised comb on the stock, camouflage paint, a super-full choke and, unfortunately, a big price tag.
The turkey hunting madness that’s wheedled its way into your consciousness tells you to buy that expensive shotgun. But then a temporary moment of clarity interrupts you as you reach for your wallet and realize you really don’t want to sleep on the couch for a month. It was just this kind of sad situation that caused me to look for a way to get that turkey gun I’d been craving without incurring the better half’s rage.
After digging around on several websites I discovered I could perform a few simple and easy upgrades to the shotgun I already owned. Who’d have thought?
I already had an un-modified Remington 870 12 gauge Super Magnum that was a perfect for the upgraded features I wanted due to the huge amount of aftermarket and factory options for the 870 platform. If you have a different smoothbore, say a Mossberg 500, there are probably plenty of options out there for you, too. Any of the shotguns produced by the major gun makers can be modified much the same way as I did mine.
First, my 870 wasn’t drilled and tapped for a scope mount and I wanted to use a red dot, so I took my Remmy to a local gunsmith and had him do the work. I think he charged me extra because I dared to ask him why the work wasn’t finished when he’d promised. If I had it to do over again, I would simply install a no-tap saddle mount to the receiver.
Companies such as Weaver and B-Square make them and they’re easy to install and cheaper than a grouchy gunsmith who can’t manage to read a calendar. To install most saddle mounts, you punch out your gun’s trigger plate pins and install the mount with the supplied screws which replace the pins.
While you have those pins out, you can improve that heavy factory trigger pull. Just slip the trigger plate out and replace the heavy sear spring with a Remington 870 competition trap sear spring (part number F91771).
The spring is exposed at the top of the trigger plate assembly. You simply insert a small screwdriver thru the coils, compress the spring slightly and remove it. Replacing that heavy sear spring with a lighter one costs just a few dollars and your trigger pull will be lighter but still at a safe level. The trigger can be further improved by a gunsmith or replaced with aftermarket parts for an even crisper, lighter pull, but that could endanger the household budget depending on how much you have to spend.
I chose a Tasco red dot scope on my shotgun for a precise aiming point to put those small, dense patterns on target. Of course, you’re not limited to a red dot. There are many options, including scopes made expressly for turkey hunting with special reticles and magnification if that’s what you want.
Once my scope was mounted, the comb of the stock was too low for a proper cheek weld. My thinking is that a turkey shotgun, with its tight shot patterns, is used more like a rifle. Turkey hunting requires a careful aim, not spray and pray. So Since I wanted my project gun to have handling qualities similar to a scoped rifle, that low comb wasn’t going to cut it.
If I had been unsure what sights or scope I was going to use I might have opted for one with an adjustable cheek piece and a pistol grip. But since I knew the sight I was mounting, I bought a Remington factory synthetic Monty Carlo stock and forearm to replace the wooden set on my 870. Once the new stock with its higher comb was installed, my cheek weld was similar to that of my scoped deer rifle. There are dozens of reasonably priced options as far as stocks are concerned.
One of the most confusing choices to make for any turkey shotgun is what choke to use. There are so many different choke makers and they all produce patterns with magical bid-destroying properties, to read their ads. I performed pattern testing of a variety of turkey chokes during this project, as well as with two other Remington 870 pump guns in the past.
I found the factory Remington Turkey super full choke is a consistent performer with Federal three-inch loads of number six shot. That’s the combination that works best for me, but you’ll probably want to burn some powder to find you preferred combination.
My turkey shotgun project was completed in time for the spring 2017 season. It might make this more entertaining if I included a tale about killing the biggest Tom ever at 50+ yards. The truth is I shot a Jake with a four-inch beard. He was the only Tom I could get to respond to my lame calls (I’m sure some new calls are in my future). The young gobbler came in silently to check things out. I put the red dot on his red head and BOOM, it was a done deal.
He was taken at about 35 yards, standing still. No real challenge for a decent shotgun or shooter, but a good overall test of my upgraded shotgun nonetheless.
It’s easy to be pleased with a project shotgun when you’ve just dropped a good sized Tom. But turkey season is long over. I’ve had plenty of time to assess my shotgun project and it turned out well for a first try at modifying a stock gun. It handles nicely, points well and felt recoil is lower with the replacement stock due to its thicker Supercell recoil pad.
I’ve had no problems or failures with any of the parts used in the upgrade so durability hasn’t been an issue. Maybe this spring season I can put it to the test on a big Tom at long range.